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Poverty

I put my two clipboards — one with petitions, the other for signatures — and donation collector into an olive-green string backpack and leave for canvassing. I get into a suit, gather legislation highlights, and head out for a meeting. It’s all part of my role as an ambassador with The Borgen Project, a nonpartisan nonprofit that combats poverty around the world. I go out as much as possible, getting into communities here in my home state and talking to people (legislative staffers, moms and dads, or anyone else who has a minute) about global poverty.

Montanans know about poverty. In 2015, according to Talk Poverty, 14.6% of Montanans and 18.9% of Montana kids lived in families with incomes below the poverty line. The 2015 U.S. poverty line was $11,770 for a single individual, $32.25 per day. We can see this poverty right outside our doors.

Also in 2015, according to the World Bank, close to 46% of people globally lived on less than $5.50 a day. One in ten people lived on less than $1.90. This poverty can be harder to see, or even imagine. Montanans who have stepped outside of our state, for example, to serve in the Peace Corps or military (where Montanans, per capita, serve at some of the highest levels in the nation), could see it in person, while the rest of us might see photos or other media.

Global poverty seems farther away, but there’s still a lot we can do — even without taking to the streets. We can mobilize our representatives in D.C. to support effective, bipartisan bills like the Global Fragility Act (S.727) and Keeping Girls in School Act (S.1071/H.R.2153) that put more of our country’s might behind fighting global poverty.

Education really matters. It’s where we get skills that serve us for the rest of our lives. According to the Malala Fund, a nonprofit named after a brave young woman shot by the Taliban for attending school and advocating education, more than 130 million girls worldwide are losing access to those skills because they are not in school. The Keeping Girls in School Act would help more of them return to the classroom, empowering them to go much further in life. If we educated all women, we’d cut child mortality in half and drop child marriage by two thirds, adding $15 to 30 trillion to global income.

None of our Montana delegation members are cosponsoring the Keeping Girls in School Act yet, but we can bring them on board for women’s education.

The Global Fragility Act would attack instability and violence from the roots, allowing more people the security to plan long term instead of struggling to survive. Since people trapped in violent, unstable situations are easy marks for terrorists’ recruiters, passing the Global Fragility Act would also reduce the number of people turned to extremism through desperation, helping our and other countries’ troops in the conflict against terror. Not all legislation would let us improve national security at home and living conditions abroad in one fell swoop. Our Montana congressional delegation can support this (rare) efficient government proposal by cosponsoring it.

Reaching out to Congress members is much easier than it sounds. You can take two minutes to call Senator Daines 202-224-2651, Senator Tester 202-224-2644 or Representative Gianforte 202-225-3211, or email any or all of them. The Borgen Project has: draft emails complete with facts and bill numbers that you can send to all three Congress members at once at https://borgenproject.org/action-center/.

You can help fight global poverty in less than five minutes. I hope you will.

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Meredith Walker coordinates anti-poverty actions as a volunteer ambassador with The Borgen Project, a bipartisan nonprofit dedicated to fighting global poverty. She is based in Missoula and can be reached at 406-540-2467.

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Opinion Editor

Opinion editor for The Billings Gazette.